NHA Selects Meaghan M. Fritz as the 2017 NHA E. Geoffrey and Elizabeth Thayer Verney Fellow

NANTUCKET, MA – The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) is pleased to announce the selection of Meaghan M. Fritz as the 2017 NHA E. Geoffrey and Elizabeth Thayer Verney Fellow.

Meaghan M. Fritz is a doctoral candidate in the English Department at Northwestern University. She graduated from Georgia State University in 2008 with a B.A. in English and Spanish literature, and from Georgetown University in 2010 with an M.A. in English. She received the English Department’s 2016 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award. In the past month she has been awarded a Graduate Research Grant from Northwestern University to pursue research at the Sandwich Historical Society. She has also been awarded the Melville Society’s 2017 Walter E. Bezanson Research fellowship, which will allow her two weeks at the New Bedford Whaling Museum and Research Library.

Fritz will use the NHA Research Library’s manuscript collection to complete her dissertation “American Widows Willed: Extralegal Citizenship and the Literature of Widowhood,” which examines the singular conditions of widowhood that changed the lives of American women from the Salem witch trials to the Civil War. She will complete her fellowship on Nantucket from May 15 through May 26, 2017.

“The third chapter of my dissertation examines literary representations of the wives of seafaring men who endured prolonged separations from their spouses and thus fell somewhere in between the social status of a widow and a wife,” says Fritz. “I hypothesize that, especially in seafaring towns such as Nantucket whose main populations became comprised of communities of women, it was the women left behind who could achieve the purest form of democratic agency for women prior to suffrage. I am especially looking forward to exploring the lives of widowed women such as Charlotte Coffin, Elizabeth Chase, and Susan Gardner during my time at the NHA, so that I might more richly contextualize my readings of widows in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, and Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs.”

The E. Geoffrey and Elizabeth Thayer Verney Fellowship was established in 1999 in an effort to enhance the public’s knowledge and understanding of the heritage of Nantucket and encourages research in the collections of the NHA Research Library. The fellowship is open to academics, graduate students, and independent scholars. Topics of research for recent scholars have included health aboard whaleships, women at sea, scrimshaw, samplers, local artists, Nantucket’s architectural heritage, Quakerism, the African-American and Cape Verdean communities, the Quaise Asylum, and abolitionism.

“We are thrilled with the selection of Meaghan Fritz as our 2017 Verney Fellow,” says Catherine Taylor, NHA Director of Museum Resources. “We are very grateful to Geoff and Liz Verney for helping to enrich the scholarship of the NHA through this annual fellowship opportunity.”

The E. Geoffrey and Elizabeth Thayer Verney Fellow resides in the Thomas Macy House, a historic property owned by the NHA. NHA Verney Fellows are expected to produce an article suitable for publication in Historic Nantucket, the organization’s biannual journal, and to deliver a public lecture on the subject of their research.

“I am most excited about spending two weeks immersed in the lives of the nineteenth-century women of Nantucket,” says Fritz. “I can’t wait to see what treasures I uncover among the renowned manuscript, photograph, and book collections at the NHA.”

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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